different kind of quiet

I’ve been a little quiet the last few months. Of course as an introvert, I’m pretty quiet normally; and quiet seasons are good from time to time–especially in the summer when you just need to get away from it all. But there are different kinds of quiet, and as I’m coming out of one kind, I’m realizing that it was a smothering, desperate quiet–not the settled, calm quiet of a healthy me.

Sometimes it takes entering a new season to realize that the past season actually was a season, not just a new-normal, inevitable, forever-time. This summer I’m coming alive again. The quiet of being out in the country, alone with some books, space to be away from all the crazy-making of this past semester is helping me to wake up again. The vibrant life of our yard and garden and my friends and travels is bringing me back to life and helping me see that who I am, truly, is not who I was this past semester. At the time, I felt that I was just a silent, awkward, sad and confused person by nature; that there was no escaping that reality. But really, it was just a shadow of me, the best I could muster in a grey, cold, lonely transition season. Winters suck, especially in new places.  This time, it is taking a summer to thaw me out, a change of place as well as pace to startle me back to myself.

Up until the last week of the semester, I thought I would be spending my summer at a sustainable farm near my college, with a family I adore, doing hard work and getting dirty in the garden. But things changed, suddenly, plans fell though, and I found myself falling back on the option that hadn’t been an option: going back home for the summer. And though I was sad not to be at the farm, going home suddenly seemed like the perfect thing for me, exactly what I needed and where I needed to be. It’s been slow, and relaxing, and spontaneous; and most of all, life-giving. After a semester of the cold dark, when I wasn’t sure I could count on anything or anyone, I’m back home. As Robert Frost says, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Last time I moved home, it was kicking and screaming, and I ended up staying much longer than intended; and it was beautiful and restorative, and the people here–they took me in. This summer, though it’s just a short stay and I know I’ll be going away again come fall, they take me in again. These are my people: family friends who’ve known me since I was born; mentors who’ve walked with me since high school; church people, new and old, who welcomed me in when church was the last place I wanted to be. This is my home, like it or not; though I’ve made homes many places, this is the place where they’ll always, always take me in, without questions and with good coffee.

And in this home, I am free to be myself. I know I can tell the truth and be ridiculous and they will love me anyway, they will love me because of it, because it’s who I am. Free from the constraints I put upon myself this semester, free from the long to-do list of work and school and reading and planning, free from the constricting depression and the conditional relationships, I’m unfolding again into myself, like the flowers that close up at night and stretch themselves out full in the sunlight. In the expansive quiet of the country, the stillness of no schedule, the steady love of my friends, the calm of the outdoors, sunny greens and blues and pinks, this quiet is the space to be myself. Sweet moments with friends; loud laughter over cooking and coffee; unexpected embraces at church; last-minute trips, just because I can, to see places and people that enliven me and remind me who I am, and that who I am is okay. The space and distance and quiet allow for the stress and crazy and lies to drain out of me, sometimes slow and quiet, sometimes with catharsis the strength of which surprises me.

I’m finding my anthem this summer in the song that names the season: “Summertime, and the living is easy.” In the lazy days of reading and gardening and playing with my dog, in the afternoons of cooking and creating in the kitchen with music playing loud, in the occasional adventures to a friend’s farm or an art museum or Costa Rica, for heaven’s sake, the easy living is restorative to my soul in ways that I know I wouldn’t have found in a different summer agenda. Quietly, almost unnoticed, my soul and body and mind are creeping back together from the corners where I’d banished them, until suddenly I am finding myself with words darting through my head, stories half-way piecing together, creativity bursting out in spurts of cooking, desires to tell my stories making their way to the surface. In the country calm and summer space, coming back to life again, I’m still quiet; but perhaps not for long.